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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

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The spectacular developments that have occurred in the Central Plateau are liable to obscure the fact that the economic centre of gravity of the region has lain and still remains in the Bay of Plenty. Nonetheless, the Bay of Plenty is experiencing a relative decline in importance. Whereas in 1936, 33.07 per cent of the region's total population was located in the Central Plateau, by 1961, during a period of rapid demographic growth in the Bay of Plenty itself, the proportion of the total population resident in the Central Plateau had risen to 44.68 per cent. In contrast to the Central Plateau, the Bay of Plenty is somewhat milder in climate, is lower lying, and has been longer settled and earlier developed. These points are brought out by the following figures. Tauranga, for instance, has a mean annual temperature, of 56.9°F, compared with Rotorua's 54.4°F, and the number of hours of bright sunshine is 2,316, compared with Rotorua's 1,998 hours. It is an important dairying area and in 1951 contained far more dairy cows than did the Central Plateau and, despite the rapid increase in numbers there, it had retained its predominance at the end of the 1950s. Indicative of its earlier settlement is the relatively lower growth in dairy cows' numbers. The district around Tauranga is recognised as one of the important citrus growing and fruit areas of the North Island, which is attested to by the 858 acres of land in Tauranga County under orchards, market gardens, and nurseries. Except for the small portion which is adjacent to Whakatane County, but which is nevertheless the most populated part, Opotiki County shows much greater affinities with the East Cape so that, in contrast to all the other counties of the region, the number of cows in milk has declined and the area grassed has not shown that considerable rate of increase displayed elsewhere during the last decade. Although Bay of Plenty stands in its own rights as a region of economic significance, it has nevertheless gained appreciably from the development of the Central Plateau. This is shown most clearly by the expansion of the trade through Mount Maunganui, the port of Tauranga. Total tonnage handled has increased from 123,151 tons in 1955 to 838,794 tons in 1963. The outgoing cargoes are concerned mainly with the timber industries: 282,930 tons of timber, 64,315 tons of wood pulp, and 111,530 tons of paper and newsprint. The inward cargoes consist mainly of petroleum and oil products, manures, and grain. Ohiwa is a much smaller and less important port for coastal traffic; 15,519 tons of paper and newsprint constituted the principal item in a total of 15,725 tons which were handled in 1960.

Development of the Region

The economic development of the past decade is not to be seen as a contest between two parts of the same region, but rather in terms of general overall growth. In the period 1951–61 the total population grew by 66.93 per cent and this growth was heavily concentrated in the urban areas, which grew by 109.08 per cent. The largest towns grew rapidly. Rotorua, whose tourist facilities had retained at the beginning of the decade a distinctly nineteenth century flavour, grew by 81.68 per cent to become an important centre for commercial life and for the location of a wide range of Government offices as the resources of the surrounding districts were developed. The tourist industry has made a notable contribution to the growth of Taupo (287.40 per cent). There has been a considerable increase in the number of baches (holiday houses) as well as in the number of people residing permanently. During the Christmas period it is estimated that the population doubles, due to the influx of tourists. The town is also a centre for the construction camps, timber milling workers, and especially the newly established farmers of the district. In the period Whakatane has grown by 89.75 per cent and Tauranga by 72.15 per cent.

Representing a quarter of the total population, the Maori increase was 54.54 per cent. With the exception of that of Opotiki County, the rural population of the other counties showed an increase, but at 24.85 per cent the rate of rural population growth was far below that of the urban population, 187.61 per cent. The increase in Maori numbers has been particularly marked in Rotorua, Mangakino, Whakatane, and Te Teko, and, though the numbers involved are smaller, also in Tauranga. It would seem, therefore, that the urbanisation of the Maori is closely associated with the establishment of construction-camp sites and timber-milling industries, so that the Maori is not thereby losing his association with primary industries or labouring. Furthermore, the figures suggest that the area, as a whole, has been one of in-migration, and within the area there has been a movement from rural towards urban areas.

The combined labour force of the Tauranga and Rotorua Employment Districts, whose limits correspond to those of the region as defined here, is 33,200. During the period April 1953 to April 1961 the total labour force increased by 50 per cent and the labour force engaged in manufacturing by 90.74 per cent, both rates being well above national averages. A comparison of the figures for the two employment districts makes clear their slightly differing economic structures. Both have approximately the same proportion engaged in primary industries, 25.31 per cent for Rotorua and 24.60 per cent for Tauranga. Rotorua has 26.47 per cent engaged in manufacturing industries, principally the pulp and paper industries, whilst Tauranga has only 17.46 per cent. The longer established and more elaborate structure of employment in Tauranga is revealed by the 45.23 per cent employed in tertiary activities (cf. Rotorua, 34.64 per cent). 60.45 per cent of the Central Plateau labour force is engaged either in primary or secondary industries, a proportion indicative of the huge development of resources which is under way. With a slightly greater proportion engaged in industry than in agriculture, the area has clearly passed beyond the exploitative and pioneer phase of its development and has established a basis for a further diversification of its economic structure. One estimate therefore forecasts an 80–per-cent increase in the region's total population during the period 1961–81 at an average annual rate of twice that of the prospective national rate of increase.

by Samuel Harvey Franklin, B.COM.GEOG., M.A.(BIRMINGHAM), Senior Lecturer, Geography Department, Victoria University of Wellington.

Statistics of Central Plateau and Bay of Plenty

Land Occupation
County Average Area of Holdings, 1960 Area Occupied, 1960
acres acres
Tauranga 208 357,893
Rotorua 544 456,104
Taupo 2,247 874,130
Whakatane 366 443,258
Opotiki 494 303,054
Urban Population
Town 1911 1936 1951 1961 1961 Maoris
Mount Maunganui .. 490 1,867 5,091 270
Tauranga 1,346 3,389 7,823 13,468 718
Greerton .. .. 969 4,681 114
Te Puke 270 961 1,461 2,298 75
Rotorua 2,390 6,531 10,656 9,360 3,468
Mangakino .. .. 3,815 5,025 1,661
Taupo 133 523 1,358 5,261 732
Whakatane 160 1,733 3,777 7,167 980
Edgecumbe .. .. 812 1,354 236
Te Teko .. .. 558 1,028 733
Kawerau .. .. .. 4,491 734
Murupara .. .. .. 1,571 675
Opotiki 936 1,437 1,998 2,582 716
Total 5,235 15,064 35,094 73,377 11,112
County Population
County 1911 1936 1951 1961 1961 Maoris
Tauranga 1,662 9,571 13,300 15,294 4,243
Rotorua 1,154 5,498 9,379 14,365 4,619
Taupo 396 3,146 3,756 8,047 2,291
Whakatane 1,540 9,667 11,389 13,871 6,520
Opotiki 1,483 4518 4,860 4,886 2,720
Total count 6,234 32,400 42,684 56,463 21,023
Total region 11,469 47,464 77,778 129,840 32,135
Sheep and Breeding Ewes
County 1921 1951 1961
Sheep Sheep Breeding Ewes Sheep Breeding Ewes
Tauranga 11,433 243,828 172,760 366,805 267,913
Rotorua 18,484 209,379 130,390 552,171 387,234
Taupo 20,574 14,225 8,218 341,057 227,487
Whakatane 55,849 98,126 58,033 177,375 125,440
Opotiki 163,502 93,456 48,293 117,398 70,614
Total 269,842 659,014 417,694 1,554,806 1,078,688
Cows in Milk
County Cows in Milk Dairy Cows in Milk per 100 Sheep Shorn
1921–22 1951–52 1959–60 1960
Tauranga 16,005 64,085 70,319 21 22
Rotorua 3,050 15,844 30,528 7.17
Taupo 898 1,007 8,907 4.34
Whakatane 11,734 58,150 64,756 37.85
Opotiki 6,775 23,660 22,055 20.28
Total 38,462 162,746 196,656 ..
  • Power in New Zealand, Farrell, B. H. (1962)
  • New Zealand's Industrial Potential, Ward, R. G., and M. W. eds. (1960)
  • New Zealand Geographer, Vol. 5, Apr 1949, “The Galatea Basin”, Fox, J. W., and Lister, R. G.
  • lbid, Vol. 12, Oct 1956, “Land Development in Taupo County”, Ward, R. G.; lbid, Vol. 13, Apr 1957, “Taupo and the Central North Island”, Ward, R. G.; lbid, Vol. 16, Oct 1960, “Changing Patterns of Settlement in Tauranga County”, Dinsdale, E.;New Zealand Journal of Agriculture, May 1954, “Pumice Land Development in Central North Island”, Smallfield, P. W.